Health form at centre of fatality inquiry left Halifax police officer confused

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - An inquiry into the death of a mentally ill Nova Scotia man who died in jail is zeroing in on a police officer's flawed interpretation of a form that instructed police to ensure Howard Hyde received psychiatric help.
Hyde, a 45-year-old musician who suffered from schizophrenia, was arrested on Nov. 21, 2007, amid a domestic dispute and was later taken to the Halifax police station, where he was Tasered twice while trying to escape.
The inquiry has heard that Hyde stopped breathing after he was shocked a second time, but he was revived by an officer who performed CPR and then taken to hospital.
Const. John Haislip, a rookie officer at the time, testified that his supervisor, Staff Sgt. Don Fox, told him to make sure Hyde was taken to court once he was cleared as medically stable.
Haislip testified that Fox told him Hyde was in hospital for treatment of possible physical injuries, not mental health issues.
"He advised me that he had not been brought there for that; that if he was medically stable and medically cleared, then we had a duty to get him to court," he told the inquiry.
The doctor who examined Hyde, Dr. Janet MacIntyre, determined he was well enough to be discharged, but she included a note on a Health Information Transfer form that made it clear police should return Hyde to hospital if did not receive a psychiatric assessment.
Haislip testified he was aware that once Hyde was turned over to sheriffs at the court or correctional officers at the jail, he would no longer be in his custody. He admitted that it was unclear to him who would be responsible for getting Hyde to a psychiatrist.
He said the doctor's instructions, which referred specifically to police doing the job, probably should have been changed.
When asked if Fox's directions had left him confused, he responded: "I guess it's fair to say, yes."
The transfer form is a key piece of evidence in the inquiry.
Earlier testimony from other Halifax police officers indicates there was a general lack of understanding of how the form was supposed to be used, who was supposed to fill it out and what authority it provided.
Const. Steve Hillier testified that he didn't even know the form existed until Tuesday, even though he was Haislip's partner on the day Hyde was released from the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.
Hyde was eventually taken back to the police station for booking.
Haislip said he relayed MacIntyre's instructions to a senior officer at the station, but he was given no assurances they would be acted on.
The officer said he assumed either the Sheriff Services or Correctional Services would see the form and get Hyde assessed.
However, Hyde was later transferred to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in nearby Dartmouth, where he died the following morning after struggling with corrections officers.
Nova Scotia's chief medical officer listed the cause of death as excited delirium due to paranoid schizophrenia. He concluded the use of the stun gun was not a factor.

Organizations: Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, Correctional Services, Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dartmouth

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